Two weeks into her job as head of the prestigious University of California, Janet Napolitano is set to visit her third campus Friday - a two-day visit at UCLA - and she's got her work cut out for her in converting hearts and minds.
"She’s an unknown quantity to all of us," said Jan Reiff, chair of UCLA's Academic Senate Chair, the body that oversees academic matters for UCLA's 3,500 full time faculty. Napolitano is scheduled to start her visit with a closed-door meeting with that group.
Reiff said chief among her questions are how Napolitano will make up for years of budget cuts, her thoughts on online classes and whether the new president plans to open the doors to more students.
"I think all of those are pressing questions and affect how we maintain the high quality of research and teaching and learning environment that is the University of California," Reiff said.
Napolitano's plans include lunch with a handpicked group of student leaders. She’s also set to visit humanities, and science departments.
A coalition of activist student groups critical of Napolitano's hiring plan a noon protest on campus.
UC Regents appointed Napolitano in July after a secret hiring process. They said her experience as Arizona governor and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security show she can run the complex UC system.
But that last post - running an agency that enforced thousands of deportations - has not won her fans among some of the students. The UCs are home to some students who are undocumented – or whose family members are.
"We’re asking for her resignation because that is the only thing that will get her out of the office," said UCLA student Denise Panaligan.
UC should be a sanctuary for undocumented students - and the campus environment for students of color needs to be improved, she said.